Okay – The pounds have finally come off and you’ve met your weight loss goal. You should be on top of the world but now you have all of this “extra” skin hanging around where the extra weight used to be. If this wasn’t what you had in mind when you dropped all those sizes, don’t despair. There are some common sense things you can do to help your skin rebound, and adapt to your new shape.
1. Don’t lose weight too quickly. It is a good idea not to try to lose more than 1 – 2 pounds per week. Slow, but steady weight loss is safer and gives the skin a better chance to tighten “to fit” as you shrink in size.
2. Eat lean protein. Two ingredients that help skin stay plump and elastic are collagen and elastin, which are formed by lean protein. Some good sources are cottage cheese, milk, legumes, tofu, beans, seeds, nuts, fish, poultry and lean meats.
3. Stay hydrated. Water is critical for skin to keep its elasticity. Drink at least 8 – 8 oz. glasses of water a day, and include foods high in water content, such as raw fruits and vegetables in your diet.
4. Take care of your skin. Avoid harsh detergents like sulfates in soaps and shampoos. Limit your sun exposure, and when you are in the sun use sun block. Stay away from tanning beds. Limit your exposure to hot and chlorinated water.
According to the Experts…
No matter the cause of your weight loss, bariatric surgery, dieting, exercise, or illness, it is clear that the more weight you lose, the more likely you are to have some issues with sagging skin. There are other factors that can impact your skin’s ability to “bounce” back, some you can control, some you can’t. The older you are, the less elastic your skin is. Heredity can also be a factor. Smoking, overexposure to the sun or tanning beds, poor nutrition and dehydration all can contribute to decreased elasticity.
“We encourage our patients to understand that weight loss is a process,” notes Dr. Cummins
According to Dr. Erin Cummins, General Surgeon with Central Surgical Associates and Medical Director for the Baptist Nutrition and Bariatric Center, many patients who have undergone bariatric surgery express concern about loose skin when the weight starts coming off. (Dr. Cummins is also affiliated with Central Mississippi Medical Center and Transformation at River Oaks.)
“We encourage our patients to understand that weight loss is a process,” notes Dr. Cummins. “Anyone who is trying to lose significant amounts of weight will initially have some sagging skin as a result. It is important for them to eat a healthy, balanced high-protein diet and to exercise regularly (including some weight training) to help with toning and elasticity. We also recommend that they consider taking vitamin C and E supplements.”
Once a person’s weight has stabilized after surgery, if they are still dissatisfied with their appearance and want to take some steps to help with sagging skin, there are a number of approaches they may consider. However, Dr. Cummins discourages any cosmetic surgery procedures until at least one year after bariatric surgery.
Dr. Randall Jordan, Vice Chairman and Medical Director of the Otolaryngology Department at University of Mississippi Medical Center whose specialties include facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, adds that age can make a big difference in the solutions that are viable for patients who are concerned about their excess skin after weight loss.
“Studies with twins have shown that when a person is under 40 and overweight, they look older than their biological age. When they are over 40 and overweight they are more likely to be perceived as younger than their biological age,” Dr. Jordan explains. “When people lose weight, particularly when it is a lot of weight, they may feel dissatisfied with their new look because suddenly their wrinkles and sagging skin are much more noticeable, especially around the neck, jaw line, and eyes. The younger they are and the less excess skin they have, the more non-surgical treatment options they have.”
“When people lose weight, particularly when it is a lot of weight, they may feel dissatisfied with their new look because suddenly their wrinkles and sagging skin are much more noticeable, especially around the neck, jaw line, and eyes,” Dr. Jordan explains.
For example, Dr. Jordan notes that younger patients may get successful results with chemical peel and laser resurfacing techniques, which can tighten skin to some degree and improve volume and texture. However the older a patient is, the less elastic their skin is and the less likely non-surgical procedures will have a significant effect on their appearance.
Plastic surgery to remove unwanted skin after weight loss is an option, but it is also a serious decision. Dr. Jordan recommends that a person who is considering cosmetic surgery wait until they have met their weight loss goals and have given their bodies (and their own self image) time to adjust to the “new normal.” Then they should talk with their surgeon about the results they are looking for, understand the pros and cons of their procedure and make sure their expectations are realistic.
Looking for a plastic surgeon?
Contact the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (toll-free at 1-888-4-PLASTIC, or visit www.plasticsurgery.org for a list of surgeons in your area who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Erin R. Cummins, M.D., FACS, FASMBS, General and Bariatric Surgeon, with Central Surgical Associates is also Medical Director of Baptist Nutrition and Bariatric Center and is affiliated with Central Mississippi Medical Center and Transformations – River Oaks. Dr. Cummins received her Doctor of Medicine degree and served her Surgical Residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She is board certified in General Surgery and a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.
J. Randall Jordan, M.D., FACS, serves as Vice Chairman and Medical Director of the Otolaryngology Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Jordan earned a Doctor of Medicine degree and served residencies in General Surgery and Otolaryngology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville. He completed his fellowship training in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at McCollough Aesthetic Medical Center in Birmingham, AL and a preceptorship in MOHS Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology at the University of Florida Department of Otolaryngology in Gainesville. He is board certified in Otolaryngology and Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.